What is grief?
It can be extremely difficult when you lose someone you knew. Whether you’ve lost a family member, a friend, or a pet, you may feel a whole range of emotions. Grief is an emotional response to this loss, and is a process rather than an event. It may affect how you feel physically, mentally and socially.
You might be grieving because of:
- the death of a family member, like a parent, grandparent or sibling
- the death of a friend, or someone you knew at school
- the death of someone by suicide
- a change in a relationship
- an illness of someone close to you, like cancer or dementia
- the loss of a relationship, like someone moving away or no longer being in your life regularly
- the loss or death of a pet animal
Whoever you have lost, you need time and space to grieve and come to terms with their death.
We all grieve differently.
Our Activists share their experiences of grief:
There’s no right or wrong way to grieve. You might feel angry, sad or depressed, or even guilty or relieved. You might be numb and not feel anything. The way you grieve might be influenced by your culture, beliefs, or how your family and community understand loss. How you react might be different to how other people around you react. You might not feel anything for a while, and may experience delayed grief. There might be some occasions when you are expecting it, like when you experience one of many ‘firsts’, such as your first Christmas without that person. Or these feelings might catch you unaware sometimes. Grief can come up at any time.
Symptoms of grief
Working through your grief
It takes time to work through grief and it’s best not to do it alone. Sometimes you might be surprised by feelings of sadness when you don’t expect them – or you might keep worrying about other people’s health, or your own. These feelings are all normal. Most of us get through with the support of family and friends.
If you’re struggling to come to terms with a death, finding daily life hard and things don't seem to be getting any better, it can help to talk to someone. Tell a trusted friend, family member or teacher how you’re feeling. If you’re feeling very worried, you can talk to your GP about counselling and professional support.
It can be normal to feel guilty. But remember, the loss you have experienced is not your fault. And if you stop feeling sad or in pain, it does not mean that you don’t care enough. You are allowed to move on in your life, and it is not a sign that you don’t care enough for the person you have lost.
Grief doesn’t have a timeline. Just take one step at a time. There isn’t a guidebook on how to grieve and what emotions to feel. You may feel many emotions, you may feel a few emotions or you may feel none at all. If you feel a whirlwind of emotions it’s completely natural.
Take your time, there is not length of time you have to grieve. You are ready when you feel ready. You grief is valid, just breathe and think about the memories you shared. The pain may be excruciating now, but each day is going to be less painful.
Expressing your grief
Here are some ways others have expressed their grief.
Tips and advice that can help
Helpful ways you can communicate how you are feeling:
- Write a letter to the person you have lost telling them all the things you want to say to them.
- Write a letter to someone who is supporting you, so they know what you are going through.
- Keep a diary or journal of how you feel.
- Express yourself through paintings or pictures.
- Write a song or poem.
- Create a memory box full of pictures and items which remind you of good times you had with the person you have lost.
How to help a friend who has been bereaved
- Listen if they want to talk. Don't feel you've got to solve anything or say something. You might feel helpless, but just being there and listening can be really helpful.
- Share your memories. If it feels appropriate and you're able to, share your memories of the person who's gone, during a chat, or in a card or letter. For the bereaved person, this can feel like being given back little pieces of the person they've lost.
- Don't feel rejected if they don't want you there. They might prefer to have one friend for going out, another to study with and so on. Make allowances for what works for them.
Get help now
If you're not sure where to turn for support right now, these organisations can help.
Offers practical support and guidance to bereaved children, their families and professionals.
Online chat service available for young people (1pm - 5pm, Tuesdays & Fridays).
- Opening times:
- 9am - 5pm, Monday - Friday
Let's Talk About Loss
Let's Talk About Loss supports 18-35 year olds who have been bereaved of anyone, at any time.
They run monthly, peer-led meet ups all over the country and there is one online too, so wherever you are, you can access support. They talk about grief in a relaxed, fun and safe space with others of the same age who 'get it'.
Offers care, guidance and support for people living with any terminal illness and their families.
If English isn't you or your family's first language, they can provide an interpreter for over 200 different languages.
Free online chat service also available.
- Opening times:
- 8am - 6pm, Monday - Friday; 11am - 5pm, Saturdays; 10am - 4pm, Bank Holidays
Text YM to 85258
Provides free, 24/7 text support for young people across the UK experiencing a mental health crisis.
All texts are answered by trained volunteers, with support from experienced clinical supervisors.
Texts are free from EE, O2, Vodafone, 3, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile, GiffGaff, Tesco Mobile and Telecom Plus.
Texts can be anonymous, but if the volunteer believes you are at immediate risk of harm, they may share your details with people who can provide support.
- Opening times:
If you’re under 19 you can confidentially call, chat online or email about any problem big or small.
Can provide a BSL interpreter if you are deaf or hearing-impaired.
Hosts online message boards where you can share your experiences, have fun and get support from other young people in similar situations.
- Opening times:
- 9am - midnight, 365 days a year